Celebrating the opening of Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla

Yutaka Kobayashi with his new work 'Absorption Ripples - Melt down melt away' 2015 Zeolite, Lichen and mixed media, at RMIT Gallery for the exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla.

Yutaka Kobayashi with his new work ‘Absorption Ripples – Melt down melt away’ 2015
Zeolite, Lichen and mixed media,
at RMIT Gallery for the exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla. Photo by Evelyn Tsitas

Tonight at RMIT Gallery we celebrate the work of six contemporary Japanese and Japanese-Australian artists:

– Yutaka Kobayashi

– Ichi Ikeda

– Manabu Ikeda

– Takashi Kuribayashi

– Finger Pointing Worker

– And the collaboration of  Ken and Julia Yonetani.

All of the artworks, in their diverse ways, represent imaginative responses to the terrible tsunami of March/2011 and the subsequent meltdown of nuclear reactors at Fukushima. Yutaka Kobayashi’s installation work titled Absorption Ripples – Melt down melt away, is a new work commissioned for the exhibition, which, with quiet, poetic power, speaks to our tendency to forget or ignore the immediate and long term impact of nuclear accidents on land and  in the oceans.

Yutaka is a Japanese environmental artist currently based in Australia on an 18 month residency. The frequently participative outreach component of his art extends his ecological messages into the larger contexts of community. Kobayashi’s installation Absorption Ripples is inspired by the idea of how quickly people forget about great disasters and can get distracted.

Curator Linda Williams explains that the full ecological impact of radioactive material released into the Pacific Ocean after 3/11 is still not fully understood. The work in sand by Yutaka Kobayashi in this exhibition foregrounds this open-ended question as waves seem to ripple outwards from Japan into the Pacific Ocean and beyond, their effects still uncharted.

“This is such a powerful work, and in it we see similarities to Japanese traditions such as Japanese Zen gardens where monks would patiently rake around rocks. Rocks are thought of as beautiful for the Japanese quality of wabi sabi, perfection in imperfection,” Associate Professor William said.

“In the work, where you see the outline of Japan in the rocks, and the force lines of the gravel radiating out from the island itself – it evokes a kind of reverse impact of the Tsunami itself…seeing the incursion of the ocean onto the land.”

Ken + Julia YONETANI Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (Hungary), 2012 Antique chandelier frame, uranium, glass beads, wire, UV light bulbs and electric component 44 x 44 x 44 cm

Ken + Julia YONETANI
Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (Hungary), 2012
Antique chandelier frame, uranium, glass beads, wire, UV light bulbs and electric component
44 x 44 x 44 cm. Photo by Evelyn Tsitas

Works range from the faux chandeliers of the Yonetani’s with their green, glowing uranium glass named after two uranium utilising nations, Hungary and South Africa; to the confronting accusatory gesture of the anonymous Finger Pointing Worker in front of the Fukushima reactor (this work went viral on YouTube); to the the meticulous drawing of nature’s revenge over a nuclear reactor chimney by artist  Manabu Ikeda, and a new work commissioned for the exhibition by Ichi Ikeda, a Osaka-born artist whose art serves as an inspirational focal point for the exchange of water-related information, as part of the series of the works he has been doing on walks for peace (Time Shelter: Walk Together for Peace! 2015, an Installation with photographs by Tatsuro Kodama).

The exhibition is a current example of how RMIT Gallery has explored the contemporary relevance of global environmental issues with ground breaking exhibitions on this theme such as HEAT: Art & Climate Change (2008) which was the first exhibition of its kind in Australia, and 2112: Imagining the Future (2011) – exhibitions also curated by Associate professor Linda Williams, with Suzanne Davies, Director and Chief Curator of RMIT Gallery, and RMIT Gallery staff.

With this exhibition, RMIT Gallery has expanded and transformed an aspect of research undertaken by the curator, Assoc. Prof Linda Williams for an ARC Linkage project; Spatial Dialogues: Art & Climate Change which developed international dialogues between artists and cultural theorists on the material and cultural significance of water in three cities of the Asia-Pacific region : Melbourne, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Curator Linda Williams talking about a new work in japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla, by Ichi Ikeda, Time Shelter: Walk Together for Peace! 2015  Installation with photographs by Tatsuro Kodama

Curator Linda Williams talking about a new work in Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla, by Ichi Ikeda, Time Shelter: Walk Together for Peace! 2015
Installation with photographs by Tatsuro Kodama. Photo by Evelyn Tsitas

From this, a new research project has developed examining the invisible forms of pollution now affecting the world’s oceans such as ocean acidification, the nano-fragmentation of micro-plastics, mercury poisoning and the insidious affects of ocean warming. Whilst such issues are being intensively investigated by scientists, so far they have been marginal to discourses in the arts and humanities. This is about to change.

There is much to reflect on in this exhibition. One might observe that, Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla is yet another initiative by RMIT Gallery which is a global first.

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla – 27 March – 30 May at RMIT Gallery.

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